KITZBUEHEL, Austria, Jan. 23, 2004(USSA)--One day before defending his Hahnenkamm downhill title, Daron Rahlves surprised himself Friday as he grabbed the sixth World Cup victory of his career, capturing a super G by .03 over Austrian hero Hermann Maier. Rahlves, third a day earlier in a make-up downhill opening the 64th Kitzbuehel race weekend, finished in 1:23.08.
Rahlves, skiing 18th, led from the top and padded his time at the bottom of the 2.3K course for his second podium in 24 hours. Maier was timed in 1:23.11 with teammates Michael Walchhofer and Andreas Schifferer 3-4. Bode Miller was the only other American in the top 30, finishing 28th with Jake Fiala 33rd and Thomas Vonn 49th. Lasse Kjus of Norway, who won Thursday and was fifth in the SG, leads the World Cup points with Miller seventh and Rahlves ninth overall.
"It's a love affair between 'D' and Kitz," said Head Coach Phil McNichol. "You see him the week before Kitzbuehel and he's like a kid before Christmas. He just wants to get here and get skiing here. He loves this place."
"He hammered the bottom again. He really loves the bottom of the course where it gets gnarly."
Rahlves, prefacing his comments with a smile and "So far, so good," said he carried "good feelings" from his podium Thursday in the race, which had been weathered-out in Bormio, Chamonix and Wengen. It was good to racing again, he said.
"I just wanted to come in here and ski smart on this hill," he said. "I didn't think there was any chance I was gonna win it. To go against the Austrians and Hermann, with his track record and how well he's done here..." Maier had won his last three super Gs in Kitzbuehel (2000, '01, '03 - missing 2002 while recuperating from a motorcycle accident) before Rahlves snipped his string by .03.
"We come over here to race. This is the time to race," he said. "I love powder skiing at home but we've gotten a lot more powder days the last couple of weeks than race days."
Rahlves had unsettling concerns
Wednesday's downhill training run, which was delayed more than two hours by the weather, had been frustrating. "I didn't have a very good training run here," the 30-year-old Rahlves explained. "It was tough. I felt I was getting soft, I wasn't on my game at all. I told my coaches I didn't have the feeling I wanted."
At the start, Rahlves said he walked off by himself at one point to enjoy the sunshine and relax. "I walked off into the sun, closed my eyes, took a little moment with the sun beating down. It was kinda like home in Tahoe," he recalled.
The win, McNichol said, "turns up the pressure but he's on a roll. It's going to be another cold and clear day, and it's going to be a fantastic race."
He added, "I wouldn't say he's a venue-specific athlete, but, for sure, there are a few which spark something in him." Rahlves said his DH victory at the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey speed races in Beaver Creek, Colo., before Christmas was special because it came in the United States, and Kitzbuehel is extra special.
First U.S. SG win since Moe in '94
It's the first super G victory for Rahlves, the most successful U.S. man in downhill with five World Cup wins. The victory also is only the second World Cup super G win by an American, following Tommy Moe's triumph at Whistler, B.C., in 1994. Rahlves also was the super G gold medalist at the 2001 World Championships in St. Anton.
It's also the fourth time in four seasons the Lake Tahoe racer, a graduate of Vermont's Green Mountain Valley School, had been on a Kitzbuehel podium. He tied for third in a downhill in 2001, won the 2003 Hahnenkamm and then came through with his back-to-back performances this week.
The win should help bury his mother's fears that she jinxed him when she attended his races, Rahlves told reporters. His parents, Dennis and Sally, are in Kitzbuehel although she had expressed concern because when they'd comme to Kitz one other time and at the World Championships a year ago in St. Moritz, he hadn't done well.
The third of four days of racing in Kitz will bring the Hahnenkamm DH, the Super Bowl of alpine racing, before upwards of 100,000 spectators Saturday. The weekend concludes Sunday with a slalom and combined calculation based on Saturday's race and the SL.